With the exception of Sweden, the COVID-19 pandemic has not caused many deaths in the Nordics, even on a per capita basis. However, the impact of the lockdowns has been the source of severe market changes. For some players the coronavirus has been a true source of growth, for others a source of great problems.
While Sweden so far has experienced almost 60 deaths per 100,000 inhabitants, Denmark has only 10, Norway five and Finland six. While the coronavirus restrictions in Sweden have taken more of the form of advice from the government, the other countries have had severe restrictions with regards to trade, work, travel and other activities.
The big winner under the new market conditions has been grocery. Consider for example the experience of Norway, where there is no cross-border shopping or trade leakage to Sweden (which has caused severe problems for retailers on the Swedish side of the border). People do not travel abroad, they eat less often in restaurants and spend more money to have “a little extra” at home.
On the other hand, the restaurant and bar sectors are facing big challenges. Not only were they locked down for a while but now they are operating at lower capacity due to social distancing restrictions.
The convenience trade in the Nordics has traditionally been focused around two major segments: traffic hubs and gas stations. Traffic hubs such as railway and bus stations are really struggling, since so many people work out of their homes. At the airports very few of the services are open which, of course, helps to reduce competition for those businesses that are still there. On the other hand, gas stations and neighborhood stores are doing better than usual. For players involved in both segments, the total sales are so far still way behind last year.
Still, there are some new possibilities. Not only have the players managed to get rental reductions on a temporary basis but they actually look forward to negotiations related to the renewal of the rents. Fewer players will be competing for the premises, and the market outlook for anyone entering into negotiations will be less optimistic than before the pandemic.